Annapolis officials and representatives from the local firefighters union are going back to the bargaining table after the city council's 6-1 vote late Monday to reject a contract proposal.
Mayor Ellen O. Moyer was the only council member to vote for the agreement, which would have given bigger raises to paramedics than to firefighters. Alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter, a Democrat from Ward 6, and Alderman Michael W. Fox, a Republican who represents Ward 7, were not present.
As part of the vote, the city again will begin negotiating with the union with the intent of giving all members an equal raise. The city and union expect to have a new bargaining schedule in place by Dec. 15.
"I hope [firefighters] will get the kind of raise we expected," said Democratic Alderwoman Sheila M. Tolliver, who represents Ward 2.
Union and city officials spent nearly six months negotiating the contract, which would have given firefighters at least a 3 percent raise and paramedics a 6 percent raise. The union ratified the agreement this fall, and the contract was expected to be approved by the council late last month.
But the council tabled the contract when Alderman George O. Kelley Sr., a Democrat from Ward 4, said he was concerned that more white union members would get bigger raises than black union members because there are more white paramedics.
Other council members also began questioning aspects of the contract. Even Monday night, council members bickered over whether they could vote to reject the contract.
"This is a mess," said Alderman David H. Cordle Sr., a Republican from Ward 5.
Even after the vote, Moyer insisted the original contract was fair. She also was concerned that the city would be hamstrung at the bargaining table because it has to try to give equal percentage raises to all union members. The union says it wants a nearly 7 percent raise for all members.
Dallas Lister, president of Annapolis Professional Fire Fighters Local 1926, which represents about 60 of the department's nearly 100 employees, said the union regrets the "chaos" of the negotiations.
But Lister said he and other union officials had always wanted every firefighter to receive the same raise and he said he was pleased that negotiations will continue.